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How did a medieval monk come back from the dead?

July 8th, 2019
Dear Dabneyites,

No one is sure whether the original tale of Brother Jocundus is based on fact or folklore. Either way it makes for a wonderful story that I just had to share with you. Watch out for a mention of Brother Jocundus himself in my next book, The Key to Her Past.

Some medieval writers liked to mock the monastic orders. Could this tale be factual or one of those anecdotes designed to shine a light on the pious medieval monks who never seemed to crack a smile? Some versions of the story are set in Scotland, some in England. Whichever it may be, enjoy a story first written down more than five hundred years ago.

There were once two neighboring abbeys, St Mary’s and St Leonard's. In St Leonard’s there lived a stout monk named Jocundus. 

A year had passed since Jocundus joined the order and to celebrate the anniversary of taking his vows he decided to sneak out to the town carnival, wanting to spend one night enjoying its dancing dogs, giants and dwarves, drinking booths, and countless whirli-go-rounds. 



As the monks slept, Jocundus stole the keys from the dozing porter and then left the priory. When the monks awoke, two trustworthy brothers were sent out to bring him back.

Meanwhile Jocundus enjoyed prodigious amounts of ale, ending his night sitting on a seesaw, singing, “In dulce jubilo, Up, Up, Up, we go.”

The monk was not hard to spot, especially as he fell off a moment later, landing unconscious on the ground beside the two brothers sent to retrieve him. They carried his senseless figure back to the priory as he continued to mumble his song.

The trial began as soon as he returned. He had been caught drunk and incapable. Asked what he would say in his defense, he opened his bloodshot eyes and merely sang, “In dulce jubilo.”

The sentence was harsh. For his crimes, Jocundus was to be walled alive into the priory cellar, there to starve to death while contemplating his sins and praying for God's forgiveness.

As he was taken down the cellar stairs, he continued to sing, “Down, down, down, we go. In dulce jubilo.”

With a jug of water and a loaf of bread his only sustenance, he was walled in brick by brick. Darkness fell on him. He was trapped. As the last of the alcohol left his system, panic kicked in and he kicked out, lashing his foot against the wall behind him. 


A typical medieval cellar


Suddenly it gave way and he fell backward into a cellar much like his own. Where was he?

Steps led up and he followed them, finding himself in the abbey of St Mary’s, the two monastic cellars had been separated only by a single wall and he had just crashed through it.

Jocundus was more lucky than he realised. The monks of St Mary's never spoke. No one said a word when they saw one more monk in their midst. He joined them at dinner, took a bed in the dormitory, and settled once more into monastic life.

Another year passed and Jocundus resisted temptation. Until the carnival came back to town. 

Not wanting to repeat the mistake he made last year, Jocundus decided to toast the carnival alone in the abbey cellar. Having resisted beer all year, he had no idea how strong the abbey home-brew could be. Soon he was dead drunk and the barrel was empty. 

Dinner time and no ale could be provided for the monks. The barrel was found empty, Jocundus asleep next to it, muttering, “In dulce jubilo, up, up, up we go.”

The crime was shocking, the punishment no less so. Jocundus was to be walled up alive in the cellar, the same nook where he had escaped certain death a year before.

The deed done, Jocundus was trapped in the dark once again, continuing to sing, “In dulce jubilo, up, up, up we go.”

The cellarer of St Leonard’s at that moment descended the steps to refill his pitcher of ale. To his astonishment he heard a song not heard for twelve months, the ghostly singing of the long dead Jocundus.

Up the stairs he ran yelling, “A miracle!” interrupting the funeral of the prior, dead only the day before.

The whole abbey descended, all hearing the singing from the spot where Jocundus had been walled in a year earlier. Pulling away the bricks, they found the miracle they sought. Jocundus had lived for a year with no food or drink.

There could be no doubt the monk was revered in the eyes of God, this was clearly a heavenly sign that he should become their new prior.

Not wanting to take any more chances, Jocundus took the hint, remaining sober from that day until the day he died decades later.

By then, the monk had become a legend, the legend becoming a story that has survived through the ages until the present day.

What do you reckon? True tale or just a tall tale?

With love until next time,

Blanche Dabney


The Key to Her Heart - Out Now!

The eagerly awaited third book in the Clan MacGregor series is now live!

Pick up a copy here.

My thanks to all of you who've read it so far. I've loved reading all your feedback! Be sure to let me know what you think if you haven't already!

Coming August 16th, 2019

Book 4 of the Clan MacGregor series has a blurb and release date!

It'll be out in August and the blurb is below. I'd love to know what you think so do get in touch and let me know...

A highlander in trouble

1270. Cursed to languish in chains for all eternity, Wallace MacGregor's soul wanders in torment through his castle, flitting forward through the centuries, searching for anyone he can bring back in time with the key to unlock his chains.

A historian on a mission

Single mother Martha can’t believe her luck when she finds a place to live that she can actually afford. There’s only one problem. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of a long dead, but very handsome, Scottish warrior. When they meet he makes her a once in a lifetime offer. Bring a silver key back through time and he will show her around medieval Scotland.

Sent back in time to the Middle Ages

When Martha first arrives in twelfth century Scotland, she wins the respect and then the heart of the cursed highlander. But when a shocking truth is unveiled, Martha is left with an impossible choice. Go home and leave Wallace to endure the cruelest of fates alone or stay and risk her own life and soul for the one thing more powerful than any curse. True love.

Add to your 'to read' list here.

Blanche Dabney Books


The Clan MacGregor Series

The Key in the Loch

Free bonus chapter mobi or epub


The Key in the Door

Free bonus chapter mobi or epub


The Key to Her Heart

Free bonus chapter mobi or epub

4 The Key to the Past - Coming Aug 16th, 2019



Highlander’s Time Trilogy

Held by the Highlander

Free bonus chapter mobi or epub


Promised to the Highlander

Outlaw Highlander

Free bonus chapter mobi or epub


Medieval Highlander Trilogy

Highlander’s Voyage

Highlander’s Revenge

Highlander’s Battle

Download the bonus chapters as a mobi file if you have a Kindle or the epub file if you have other e-readers. Right click and 'save as' to download.
Previous Newsletters

June 24th 2019 - How did medieval highlanders treat their pets?
June 10th 2019 - Want to see inside the home of the Lords of the Isles?

May 24th 2019 - Who and what were the clans of Scotland?

May 14th 2019 - What was marriage like in medieval Scotland?

April 19th 2019 - Easter Sale

March 26th 2019 - What is medieval marginalia?

March 11th 2019 - Why was a castle taken down stone by stone?

Feb 22nd 2019 - What links King Arthur and Jamie Fraser?

Feb 8th 2019 - How did an Earl steal an abbey?

Jan 25th 2019 - Happy Burns Night

Jan 15th 2019 - What happens in a Highland New Year?

Dec 20th 2018 - Ten things I love about Christmas

Nov 28th 2018 - Knights in armor could hardly move, right?

Nov 14th 2018 - Seen Outlaw King yet?
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